Genesis 37:2-36

 |  April 9, 2018

Gen. 37:2-36

  1. Locate the passage

This pericope begins a new toledoth in the text. The story resumes the accounts of the family of Jacob. It reveals that the sin of favoritism that Jacob learned from Isaac and Rebekah, that threatened to split Jacob’s family, continued to plague Jacob. This story is the transition from Jacob as the lead character to Joseph. But, as we meet Joseph in the story, he is still young and somewhat immature. Yet, God has a plan for Joseph’s life.

  1. Genre

The passage is narrative. It records the conversations between Joseph and his brothers, Joseph and his father, Joseph and the man from Dothan, and Joseph’s brothers.

  1. Determine the structure of the passage

37:2-4 – Life as the favored son

37:5-8 – Joseph’s first dream which he told his brothers

37:9-11 – Joseph’s second dream which he told his brothers and his father

37:12-17 – Joseph sent to find his brothers
37:18-24 – Joseph’s brother’s plot against him

37:25-30 – Joseph’s brother’s revised plot against him

37:31-35 – Joseph’s brother’s cruelty to Joseph compounded by their cruelty to their father

37:36 – God’s plan for Joseph begins to unfold

  1. Exegete the passage

The story is about more than just tattle tales and dreams. It’s about family dysfunction, the downward cycle of sin, and its consequences.

Note the contrast between the non-specific “they saw” and “they said,” and the specific references to speeches of Rueben and Judah.

There is a link between Abraham’s family crises and the crises throughout history unto today.

Note the significance of dreams that develop in the Joseph narratives. Previously, God spoke through direct revelation (20:3; 22:1-2; 26:2-5; 28:12-13; 31:3, 11, 24; 35:1, 9-12).

Does God speak through dreams? One would be wise not to put any limits on God. The writer of Hebrews in Hebrew 1:1-2 declares that in the past, God has spoken through a variety of means, but most recently through His Son.

Joseph is an intriguing figure in the text. He is depicted as immature and perhaps naïve in his early dealings with his brothers; yet faithful in temptation with Potiphar’s wife. He is perceptive and obedient in prison; wise with Pharaoh; and cunning and yet forgiving with his brothers.

37:2 – This pericope is introduced as the history of Jacob. Indeed, while Joseph is the key figure in much of the rest of the book, Jacob continues to be a prominent focus and it is the blessing of Jacob to which the text returns in Genesis 48-49.

37:2 – The sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah. Former rivals combine against Joseph. Here, Joseph tattle-tales on his brothers. The brothers about whom he complains to his father are the sons of Jacob’s concubines and not the sons of Leah.

37:3-4 – Jacob continues to follow the pattern of his parents in showing favoritism towards his children.

37:5 – Joseph, seemingly ignorant of their hatred of him, relates to his brothers a dream depicting him as superior to his brothers.

37:5 – They hated him “all the more”

37:7-8 – Joseph explains that in his dreams, his brothers bowed down to him

37:9-11 – Joseph, seemingly unaware of their increasing hatred towards him, had another dream and recounted it to both his fathers and brothers. In this dream, Jacob and Joseph’s brothers all bow down to him.

37:13-14 – The purpose for Jacob sending Joseph to his brothers is expressed in 37:14.   Joseph was bringing back word about them to Jacob.

37:14 – He came to Shechem

37:15 – Joseph was “wandering” in the field

37:17 – Joseph was told by the unidentified man that his brothers had moved to Dothan

37:18 – The brothers saw Joseph from a far off

37:19 – Behold the “dreamer” comes

37:20-22 – Reuben’s Proposal

37:23-24 – When Joseph arrives, no conversation is recorded. Though, we learn later from Gen. 42:21 that Joseph pled for his life. Instead, the brothers take his coat and cast Joseph into a pit. The pit appears to have been a cistern or old water well that no longer had water in it.

37:25 – The brothers callously respond to their own actions by sitting down to eat.

37:25 – The Ishmaelites are coming

37:26-27 – Judah’s Proposal

37:28 – The price of a slave

37:29-30 – Reuben’s absence since his negotiation with his brothers is not explained in the text. Knowing what he knew of his brother’s intention, his departure is curious. He does return and apparently attempted to do what he had set him mind previously to do (rescue Joseph), but he was too late.

37:31-32 – The brothers compound their sin by concocting a tale to tell their father that Joseph was dead.

37:33 – The brothers allow their father to form his own conclusion

37:34-35 – Jacob tore his clothes

37:36 – As this passage comes to a close, the Midianites sold Joseph to Potiphar.

  1. Let the structure of the text drive the sermon

Exp. This passage reminds us of the lingering problem of sin in Jacob’s family. One could argue that the problem went back to Abraham. The consequences of that sin were dramatic and lingering.

Exp. Joseph might have acted out of immaturity, but his brothers acted out of evil (Gen. 50:20).


Category: Sermon Structure
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